Message From the President: Faster and cheaper – The root of all evil

Emmett 2 copyBy Peter S. Emmett, CCCA
After 30 years in this industry, I would like to share with you my opinion on a major shift in the delivery process. In today’s market, everyone wants things “faster and cheaper”—and this can lead to major problems.

In the first meeting with the client, too many of us consultants often find ourselves nodding and agreeing to schedule demands that cannot realistically be met and subpar fees that are inadequate to properly staff a project. When responding to a Request for Proposals (RFP), despite recommended minimum fee schedules, we often undersell our services and agree to the same stringent delivery schedules all with the same results.

When projects are tendered in today’s economy, many contractors find themselves with sharp pencils, agreeing to unrealistic schedules and undercutting the competition.

Why do we all continue to do this? To get the job? To maintain cash flow in order to keep quality employees picked up in the heyday of the new millennium on the payroll? These are jobs on which we will very likely lose money and our reputation; these are jobs we may be better off without.

Traditionally, projects were tendered utilizing one delivery method: design-bid-build. Today, we have hybrids like construction management, design-build, modified design-build, integrated project delivery (IPD), and other methods to deliver projects faster and with a greater potential for profit.

With the advent of technology, there is a common misconception everything must move more quickly. In reality, we cannot produce construction documents with the push of a button, we cannot always respond to communications within five minutes of receipt, and we cannot put things up faster because of zoom booms and lifts, sequential tendering, and phasing.

Of course, at the same time, material and labour costs continue to inflate while budgets are going in the opposite direction.

It may seem like an obvious point, but true quality takes time. The mantra of “faster and cheaper” can increase levels of unacceptable risk. Something has to give, and the first to suffer is quality of services and construction. Inadequate time and budget affect the proper execution of contract documents, and, in my experience, checking and co-ordinating are first to suffer. This critical phase of delivery is required for appropriate documentation. Meanwhile, contractors’ budgets and schedules are cut to the bare bones. When they are tightened, quality of construction is the first thing to suffer. So what are we to do?

You may know where I am going with this, but ‘quality’ will be a topic for a future article…

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